Google has followed Apple’s lead and banned Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik applications from its mobile app Store, Play, and Per Reuters.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the European Union sanctioned two Kremlin-linked media sites.
It’s unclear whether the Play Store restriction on the Russian state-affiliated media firms’ apps is limited to the EU, where a ban on the two entities is due to take effect today.
Google had already banned the RT News app in Ukraine at the request of the Kyiv authorities.
We’ve approached the company for further information on the Play Store ban and will update this article when we learn more.
As previously reported, the EU’s legal ban on RT and Sputnik would extend to all distribution channels, including online platforms, setting a strict deadline for platform companies to take action against RT, Sputnik, and their subsidiaries.
Some EU Member States have recently banned RT broadcasts in their territories, such as Germany, which banned the Russian state broadcaster’s German-language version earlier this month — but the upcoming pan-EU sanction means there will soon be a far more extensive blanket ban across the region.
Google blocked the RT and Sputnik on YouTube channels yesterday, ahead of the EU sanctions coming into effect.
However, in that situation, access to their YouTube channels is only geoblocked in the EU, where the legal consequence will apply, rather than their accounts being suspended internationally.
As a result, Google has been criticized for putting a partial ban on Russian propaganda.
Google has also appeared to be a little slower to respond to the Ukraine issue than other platforms.
As a response to the invasion of Ukraine, Apple declared yesterday that it will ban the RT and Sputnik News apps from its AppStore in all markets outside of Russia.
Meanwhile, Microsoft had previously removed RT from its Windows application store and de-ranked these news sources in its search engine Bing, as part of a package of steps announced on Monday.
Other tech companies have also scrambled to impose restrictions on Russian region media in the wake of Ukraine’s invasion, with Twitter increasing its labeling policy earlier this week to flag tweets that contain links to the media outlets’ content, as well as limiting the visibility of the content itself.
Although Twitter has been criticized by European authorities for not removing the accounts themselves.
Facebook and TikTok both confirmed earlier this week that they are now geoblocking RT and Sputnik in the EU, as part of additional limited efforts.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine last Thursday, European leaders and Commission lawmakers have applied high-level pressure on popular media tech platforms to do more to overcome what the bloc’s president described Sunday as Russia’s “toxic media machine,” trailing what she also described as “unprecedented” sanctions against RT and Sputnik.
According to the Commission, the two Kremlin-linked media outlets are a critical strategic component of Putin’s war machine.